This was my first trip to the Jungle in Calais. I had seen many videos of life in the camp, and had heard from those with first hand experience what life is like there. Nothing could have prepared me for the way I felt when we drove in.
It hit me like a sledgehammer in my chest.
It took my breath away and brought a tightness to my throat that only tears could release.
We had to take the long route in to the camp. The CRS were stopping everybody because it didn’t suit them to have people drive in the short, most direct route that day.
That long route took us past the L’Ecole d’Art. The day after we left it was beaten down, dismantled and cleared away by the French police. Maybe the acrylics posed a serious threat? Who knows? Clearly art is dangerous.
It also took us past one of the stand pipes; a steel trough with running water. This provides the water so people can wash their clothes. It’s cold water and no one had any washing powder from what I could see. Across the road there was a bit of chainlink fence. A couple of teeshirts and a pair of trousers were hanging, drying in the sunshine.
Driving in between huts and tents, on rough rocky ground, we saw evidence of the stirrings of the beginnings of the day for many who live here. Hut doors were open, though many were closed. Tent flaps were hooked back and there were jumbles of shoes, bits of clothing and cooking utensils piled outside.
This looked nothing like a campsite though. The tents were like the ones you see in Go Outdoors but they were covered in dust and had bits of tarpaulin, bright blue like IKEA bags, thrown over them, in the hope that it would give them another layer of protection from whatever the camp, Northern France and the CRS had to throw at them.
We had to drive slowly. This is off-road terrain.
We parked the van to the side of The Little Ashram Kitchen
( https://www.facebook.com/LittleAshramKitchen/?fref=ts )
and began to unpack and set up the homeopathy clinic. A few young men gathered round us, interested and hopeful. They got the gazebo up and working in a few minutes, ignoring the instruction leaflet because it just confused the hell out of everyone.
And so it began…. a steady stream of men came to the table. Mostly they brought their coughs, which ranged from sore throats, to the effects of tear gas, to more worrying blood producing ones (TB is commonplace here) But some also came with injuries; from those sustained whilst trying to jump up into trucks, to the merciless beatings by the CRS. Teeth, and painful decay are a big problem for many of these people. Eye problems from the dust in the camp and from the effects of tear gas. This seems to be an almost daily occurrence. Ear problems too….. lots of pain, and deafness from being beaten.
And then there were those I felt long before I saw them. We were busy, heads down prescribing remedies, when that sledgehammer would come again and knock me backwards. I would look up and see in front of me, maybe a couple of men back, the one from whom it came. The look was so desperately sad, so haunted. By the time he got to the front of the queue he just put his hand on his heart. No words exchanged. A fellow human being was standing before me totally and utterly heartbroken. This happened many times.
The clinic days were a time of few words. There were people who spoke many languages, none of them English….and there I was with only my mother tongue to haul around, somewhat uselessly. So we communicated in a mixture of sign language and colour charts. This worked well for this kind of clinic. We saw and treated around 800 people in the two days we were there.
My heart went out to many in those couple of days, even though I hadn’t heard their story of how they had come to be in the Jungle. I didn’t need to hear the evidence. I just had to witness the devastation in their soul. I gave remedies for grief, trauma and shock and I took the same remedies myself after I had left France and returned to Yorkshire.
We will be returning to Calais in the middle of September. Donations are diminishing as the camps and the refugees are not making headline news anymore. Please know that the situation is only getting worse there and your help is needed now more than ever.
As the relative comfort of summer dwindles and autumn is peeking its head round the corner, the environment in Calais becomes ever more hostile. With up to 50 people arriving on a daily basis in Calais alone, and the population numbering some 10 000 at the end of August, supplies are diminishing rapidly.
The people here are given one meal a day; not by the French government or the Red Cross or Save The Children, or any other well known charitable organisation but by YOU…those of you who have donated before. The refugees are hungry now. What will happen when these precious supplies dry up?
Please help by sending a donation to keep up our work in the homeopathy clinics towww.homeopathssupport.com or to help us to buy supplies when we get there (the wonderful long term volunteers at L’Auberge tell us just what they need) please send a donation by paypal directly to me at email@example.com
Thank you 💜💜💜